Why do we lose wisdom and make the same mistakes over and over again? It’s a big question but I think I can throw some light on it.
Truth of right action
We crave truth of action. When one acts truly one acts without regret or risk of shame or guilt. One way of looking at truth of right action is:
Facts + Knowledge of how to act given the facts = Truth of right action.
Another way of saying “Knowledge of how to act given the facts” is to say Wisdom. So to simplify the equation:
Facts + Wisdom = Truth of right action.
So if we know there is a university, we do not know which major to study until we make a wise choice. The fact that there is a university is not enough to guide us to the truth of how to act.
The problem is that from time to time facts get debunked. We throw out facts because sciences makes a discovery that changes our perspective on things. Now that the facts have changed we lose our truths. But in the chaos we discard wisdom along with everything else.
Take the following example. There used to be a fact that the world was flat. Accordingly, there used to be a wisdom that the proper way to act was not to sail too far from land lest you fall off the face of the earth. So we have a truth of action which states staying close to the shoreline is good. Eventually someone proved the fact to be wrong and as such we abandoned our truth. But is not the wisdom of “do not sail to far from home” still applicable? Do not stray to far from what you know and bite off more than you can chew. Do not go too far from safety? Even fighter pilots have parachutes and even the safest of businesses have insurance.
Are we doomed to make the same mistakes forever?
One great source of wisdom is the bible. Whether you believe the book to be divine revelation or just an assembly of excellent parables, you’d have to agree that ‘the good book’ contains much wisdom. But in order to tell us how to act truly it had to put the wisdom in context and so it used the facts of the day. That last part is now proving problematic. Regardless, two essential wisdoms that the bible provides us is; honour your mother and father and pride comes before the fall. I think we can avoid making the same mistakes repeatedly if we remember these two wisdoms.
The first case serves to remind us that our elders have done everything we’re thinking of doing and learned from it already. Before you act, ask someone older than you how you should act. That doesn’t mean you should follow their advice blindly as all people (even your elders) possess self interest or envy. But of all the elders you’ll ever meet the ones that are most likely to act selflessly in giving you advise are those that love you the most. Ask your Mum and Dad or other family members before you act and you increase your chances of acting truly.
In the second case, are we so prideful that we think that the struggles that we are facing are unique to only us? Are we of all people and special for having to face an evil that no one has faced before? We must display humility and respect that there is nothing that we will face that has not been faced before. Do not act rashly and hasten into folly by thinking you alone must discover the answer to life’s questions by acting alone. You have friends and the world is awash in ancient wisdoms if you have the patience to listen to them. Do so, and you increase your chances of acting truly.
- Those that don’t lose sight of old wisdom just because science has redefined the physical world have more of an idea of how to act well.
- Science itself should not try and determine how people should behave and confine itself to establishing facts.
- Truth of right action is never lost, it must simply mold it to the existing context in light of present facts.